SUNDAY DRIVE: Looking for Dorothy in Culver City

January 20, 2009
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Original MGM entrance.

Original MGM entrance.

I always think of Culver City as the forgotten city, the step child to the more glamorous and glittery Hollywood or Beverly Hills.

But Culver City is where Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz first walked down the Yellow Brick Road inside the friendly confines of MGM Studios, now known as Sony Picture Studios, so the city still holds a lot of magic. Sony, in fact, features walking tours Monday through Friday from Sony Pictures Plaza. I had a friend who worked on the lot so I got to skip paying the $33 tour admission, but even if you have to pay, it’s well worth the investment to walk down the hallowed streets and relive Hollywood’s glory days. Today, game shows “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” are filmed on the lot, so it’s possible you might see Vanna White walking by. For more tour info, call (310) 244-8687 or go online to

Before after the tour, do drop in at the Culver Hotel, which first opened its doors in 1924, the city’s other landmark that is on the National Register of Historic Places. Sitting in the lobby, I immediately felt like old money, as if I were waiting for Louis B. Mayer to discuss a three-picture deal starring Judy Garland. Every inch of the lobby personifies elegance, grace and allure.

The hotel is centrally located and close to dozens of restaurants, wine bars, theaters and unique shops. Colleen and I wandered into the Ugo Italian café, where we decided to brunch on pancakes and parfaits with fresh fruit.

The food and service get a few fingers up, not the whole thumb, but it’s on a busy corner, and you feel among the anointed just to have a seat watching the commoners walking by.

Sadly, neither of us was discovered during our brief Culver City stop, but we can dream, can’t we? Culver City is the perfect place to do that during the week or just on a Sunday Drive.

Sony Pictures is located at 10202 West Washington Blvd in Culver City. The Culver Hotel ( is located at 9400 Culver Blvd. and Ugo Italian Café is at 9501 Culver Blvd.

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